Agile Project Lifecycle Insights with Johanna Rothman

The Agile Uprising podcast recently served up a delightful blend of humor and wisdom in their latest episode featuring Johanna Rothman, agile consultant and author extraordinaire. The hosts, Claudia Orozco-Gomez and Jay Hrcsko, facilitated a conversation about Agile Project Lifecycles that was both light-hearted and deeply insightful.

Johanna Rothman joined the duo to discuss her book, Project Lifecycles: How to Reduce Risks, Release Successful Products, and Increase Agility, which tackles the often-misunderstood concept of agility in project management. Rothman shared that her book is a response to the widespread disillusionment with agile frameworks and methods that seem to have lost their way, leading to what she describes as the “bankrupting of all the ideas behind agility.”

The Misconception of Agile: So I wrote this book because I see so much really bad agile, and I see so many people saying agile doesn't work. You name a framework or a method and it does not work. It's totally bankrupt. — Johanna Rothman Click To Tweet

The book’s central theme is about delivering value through different Agile Project Lifecycle approaches —serial, iterative, and incremental—and understanding the trade-offs and risks associated with each. Rothman emphasizes the importance of making reasonable choices to create a better environment for teams, rather than getting bogged down in the dogma of specific agile methodologies.

The Challenge of Cultural Change: Agility requires a cultural change. If you really want an agile approach: You need a cultural change. Who, who holds the culture? Managers.— Johanna Rothman Click To Tweet

One of the key takeaways from the Agile Project Lifecycle episode is the idea that projects can be a helpful container for delivering product value in the short term, and that project management doesn’t have to be at odds with agile principles. Rothman advocates for shorter projects, cross-functional teams, and probabilistic estimation to navigate the complexities of project work within an agile context.

The pod hosts and guest also delve into the cultural aspects of agility, discussing how team culture and project culture must align to foster true collaboration and ownership. Rothman’s approach is refreshingly pragmatic, suggesting that change should be framed as an experiment, inviting team members to participate and choose the changes that make sense for them.

The Problem with Story Points: Story points requires a kind of fantasy thinking, right? Magical thinking. Then if I turn my acorns and nuts into points I will somehow avoid, the when will it be done question.— Johanna Rothman Click To Tweet

I hope listeners (and readers) will gain a sense of empowerment and practical strategies for enhancing agility in their organizations, regardless of the prevailing project management culture.

Rothman’s book is a must-read for those looking to navigate the agile landscape with a clear-eyed view of what works, what doesn’t, and how to make the best choices for their teams and projects.

For more insights from Johanna Rothman and to explore her other works, visit And remember, stop trying to turn acorns and nuts into story points! Instead, work some good magic by building trust through management of risk and delivery of value



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